Monday, December 03, 2007

"From the Shadows": Did Gates Shape the New NIE on Iran?

Having just finished Robert Gates' excellent book 1996 From the Shadows, my immediate reaction upon reading of a new National Intelligence Estimate that
downplays the likelihood of Iran developing nuclear weapons before 2015 is that Gates, a 25-year CIA veteran and former DCI, very likely had a shaping hand - if not in the report itself, then in its release. Until quite recently, Gates has kept a very low profile since becoming Secretary of Defense about a year ago, but the evidence is strong that he has had a calming, rationalizing effect on Bush Administration policy and rhetoric. Last week, in a speech at Kansas State University, he astonished Pentagon observers by telling students that the U.S. needed to boost the State Department's budget -- that is, redress the balance between hard power and soft power. Prior to that, the only public comments of his since taking office that I can remember cropping up in mainstream news were two checks to belligerent Administration rhetoric-- to say in one instance that Congressional debate on war financing put useful pressure on the Iraqi government, and in another that Hillary Clinton's request for contingency withdrawal plans was reasonable. Both of these interventions are in keeping with the balanced assessment in From the Shadows of the five presidents Gates worked for (Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr.). In the final section of that book, Gates notes that doves and hawks worked effectively, though often in bitter competition, to keep those five presidents on containment course, and that Congressional intrusion on foreign affairs could be meddlesome and counterproductive but also served as an essential check on executive power. Also, as a top member of Bush Senior's national security team, he lauds that team's cohesion and mutual trust, born of confidence that the National Security Adviser Scowcroft (and deputy Gates) would present all views to the President. The unwritten sequel haunts the book like a shadow limb: that Bush 43 in so many ways destroyed the balance born of separation of powers, bipartisanship, and competition of views within prior administrations.

4 comments:

  1. Right on.
    Gates for GOP '08!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Right on.
    Gates for GOP '08!
    Actually I wonder if he's angling to stay on if a Democrat wins, in a grand bipartisan gesture.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice concise article on Gates. I'm just wondering if you have links to the two other mainstream speeches you're talking about; either the one assessing Hillary's contingency plan or the one criticizing the current administration.

    ReplyDelete
  4. agaghgoo: neither Gates comment came from a speech. You can read an AP account of his response in writing to Hillary Clinton's written request for information about planning for troop withdrawal at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,,-6807720,00.html
    That response also includes an affirmation that Gates values Congressional oversight, so it really covers both points referenced in the post.

    ReplyDelete

Share